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29 November 2019updated 24 Jul 2021 3:57am

Terrorist incident at London Bridge shakes a city haunted by the recent past

By Anoosh Chakelian

Two people have been killed, and several people injured, in a stabbing at London Bridge. The suspect, wearing a hoax explosive device, was shot and killed by police at the scene.

The terrorist attack comes two years after eight people were killed and 48 injured by three terrorists who rammed a van into pedestrians and stabbed people in restaurants and bars in the Borough Market area at London Bridge. Like today, the perpetrators then were also wearing bomb vests that turned out to be fake.

A witness, Karen Bosch, who was on a bus a few metres from the incident, referred to the previous attack on BBC rolling news:

“We tried to get away as quickly as possible because you don’t know how many [attackers there are]. With the last London Bridge attack, there were a few different attackers, so we just thought let’s get away from here as quickly as possible.”

Another witness, Lisa Minot, a Sun journalist who was in a restaurant near the scene, told talkRadio:

“When I was sitting in the restaurant, there was a real kind of panic of is history going to repeat itself? These kind of restaurants have been hit once before, they shouldn’t have to live in fear every day, and suddenly you’re met with the fact there could be another person running, rampage, on Borough Market. And I think there was a real sense, with the customers as well, that as soon as people started getting these alerts on their phone, there was a real sense of ‘this could be second time round’.”

That same year of 2017 also saw four killed and almost 50 injured at Westminster, 22 killed and 139 injured at the Manchester Arena, and one death and at least nine injured at Finsbury Park mosque.

As those tragedies were clustered around the general election of 8 June 2017, this latest attack feeds further into a dark feeling of déjà vu.

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More so than in any general election in the United Kingdom since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, politicians are having to take extreme safety measures as they campaign. Stoke-on-Trent MP Ruth Smeeth has spoken of carrying a panic button in her pocket, and has called her house and office “a fortress”. The murder of sitting MP Jo Cox ahead of the 2016 EU referendum weighs heavily on politicians’ and their activists’ minds.

Details of what happened at London Bridge today are still unfolding. Yet its echo of a particularly bloody recent few years, in a tense political context, is clear.